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In the new ‘Robin Hood,’ Oscar winner Jamie Foxx is Moor than just Little John

‘I understand the significance of a bus full of school kids — that are African-American — yelling my name’

Set in the Middle Ages, the new Robin Hood film co-stars Oscar winner Jamie Foxx as Little John, a mentor to the man who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. In this retelling of a classic story, we’re getting something we haven’t seen before: real, honest diversity.

Plus, we get a well-rounded and fleshed-out Little John— a Moor who met Robin Hood while fighting during the war. John is a master soldier who coaches the would-be savior into the hero the people of Nottingham so badly need. A black man in a classic English tale? Surely, you jest! “It works … two different ways,” says Foxx. “I used to say, One day I hope that we’ll be to the point of where we’ll just be able to play characters. I understand the significance when … a bus full of school kids that are African-American start yelling my name. They’ll be able to see themselves in great roles, and iconic roles, and be able to get a shot to be part of cinematic history. I don’t take it for granted.”

The new film feels very contemporary; this one is an origin story of how Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton), a noble man of distinction, transitions after a war into a liberator of poor people who aren’t being heard and cared for by the reigning government. “Sometimes, whether on purpose or subliminally … artists, we feel things or see things [and] sometimes they rise to the top. That’s why we have a voice; that’s why we have our freedoms to be able to make enough noise — and to be able to straighten out the kinks, if you will,” says Foxx. “And if you can do it in an entertaining way, and not beat people over the head with it, it’s always great.”

Robin Hood’s story has always tapped into the idea of a vigilante swooping in to save the day and giving a voice to the people who lack their own. This look features Foxx’s Moorish commander helping stage a revolt against corrupt English rulers. “The political element of it is part of what makes the world live and breathe, and makes the characters feel very real …it’s a world that has reality to it. In terms of it mirroring things that happen in the world at large … there’s always inequality and there’s always trouble and strife,” says Egerton. “That’s … humanity, really. The story has relevance, and always has had relevance because these problems always exist.”

Kelley L. Carter is a senior entertainment reporter and the host of Another Act at Andscape. She can act out every episode of the U.S. version of The Office, she can and will sing the Michigan State University fight song on command and she is very much immune to Hollywood hotness.